David Beckham believes the Los Angeles Galaxy have finally got the right mix of players to make a bid for a Major League Soccer crown.
Beckham made his comeback for the Galaxy on Thursday night after an extended loan spell with AC Milan and started in a much revamped team from the one he left behind at the Home Depot Center last October.
Taking up a role in central midfield, the England star played for 70 minutes as team captain Landon Donovan inspired the new-look Galaxy led by head coach Bruce Arena to a fourth victory in succession as they defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
First-half goals from new signings Alecko Eskandarian and former Preston, Leeds and Derby winger Eddie Lewis, either side of a 20-yard strike from Donovan, sealed victory over a poor home side, for whom Juan Pablo Angel scored a penalty and missed another, both in the last five minutes.
"I've been looking forward to coming back for a few months," Beckham said. "I enjoyed my spell at AC Milan and playing with some of those players was an experience on its own. But we've got quality in this team and I've been talking to Landon and also to the manager and a few other players as well while I was in Milan and they were saying that we've got a good group of players here, a group of players that will improve and move it to a different level and they showed that.
"I'm more than happy to be back here and playing, especially when we've played like this. I enjoyed it a lot," he added.
Donovan had questioned the Englishman's commitment to the Galaxy after he opted to extend his loan with Milan rather than rejoin the MLS side for the start of the season, but both men were on the same page and former captain Beckham suggested the players now around them were of a higher standard than in his previous two seasons in LA under former head coaches Frank Yallop and Ruud Gullit.
"We have to push forward still and there's still a lot of hard work to be done but we're playing together as a team," he added. "And not to say too much about the players and the teams that we've had in the past but we're playing with guys that have got a lot of confidence and they're not scared to just do stuff on their own.
"They don't feel as if they have to give the ball to certain players in attacking positions because they can do it themselves," Beckham went on. "I think that's the biggest thing. We're playing with players that have got a lot of confidence and have got ability and when you play together as a team, you've seen the standard of it tonight. Players are working hard for each other and when they do that it works."
Former USA manager Arena, who replaced Gullit as LA head coach halfway through last season as the Galaxy failed to make the end of season play-offs, praised the effort and performance put in by Beckham, who will next face AC Milan on Sunday when the MLS side hosts a friendly with the Italians.
"I thought he was good," Arena said. "David is a competitive guy and at half-time I told him we were going to go to 60 minutes and he told me 65, 70. If he had it his way, he'd keep going. Like any player he's kept himself reasonably fit after his break from AC Milan and with the international team. However, he's got to get back in training, he needs some games but I didn't think we would get as much from him as we did tonight."